TextAlways be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Have you considered the connection between joy, peace and prayer. As you study the text above, you can see that the three are connected. Many people falsely assume that Jesus was a wet blanket when in fact Jesus was a happy person, filled with joy and peace. Yes, He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. He did not laugh about sin or the cross that sin produced but He possessed a deep inter joy that was complete. Dante summed it up when he said, “In His will is our peace.” Jesus remained in the Father’s will. He never, one time, got outside His Father’s will. He lived a life of perfect obedience and herein lies the JOY. Jesus referred to this in John 15 as abiding…“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
What happens when we abide in His will?
1. Abiding in Christ Gives Us A Sense of Security Or An Absence of Fear
When we abide in Christ, we do not fear getting lost. We have a peace and a sense of security that we could not have a part from our relationship with Christ. Freedom is one thing but security is another. Dr. Charles Allen tells the story of a friend who offered to fly him home after a meeting in his little two-seater cub. The plane had no instruments and you navigated by visual landmarks, highways, rivers, etc. Somehow they managed to get off course and although they could see land, they didn’t see anything they recognized and there was no place to land. Suddenly, both men realized their were lost and running low of fuel. They did not have a radio so there was no way they could even signal for help. Dr. Allen does not finish the story but we know he survived. I hate if when a preacher does not finish a story; I want to know what happened.
A few months later Dr. Allen was flying in a commercial liner and the pilot allowed him to come into the cockpit. This was back in the 60’s, there is no way this would happen today. They were flying in the clouds and visibility was about 30 feet. Dr. Allen ask him how they stayed on course since they could no see any landmarks. The pilot assured him that landmarks were not necessary and then he put his headset on Dr. Allen…”Do you hear that noise?” said the pilot, “That is a radio beam and it will guide us to our destination.” I suppose it a kin to the lasers that Engineers, surveyors, and builders use today. When you get the grade exact, the beep become one solid sound.
When you look at the natural world, it is absolutely amazing how God guides the birds who migrate thousands of miles. Can you imagine setting sail from San Francisco and headed for the Hawaiian Islands. Let me tell you, in relationship to the Pacific Ocean, those islands are tiny. The Pacific Golden Plover, a migratory bird that is born in Alaska and Siberia, makes a two thousand mile flight over the Pacific and in spite of wind and other factors, they fly straight to the Hawaiian Islands.
When it comes to you and I following Jesus, we have a radio beam: He is called the Holy Spirit and when we get off course, the sounds we hear in our spirit are not in harmony. We are don’t get a clear signal because we are off course. Obviously God gave the birds and the animals instincts that He did not give us but He has given us His word as a compass and His Spirit as a guide. As Dante said, If we stay on course, stay in his will, there is going to be that one clear sound and herein lies our joy and peace. No one who chooses to live outside the will of God will have peace. No one who lives in rebellion of God’s will can experience joy. They may display a fake happiness but they do not possess joy.
If you will study your fears, you will discover that you are not worried about the past even though in my class, it is littered with mistakes. Neither are you terribly worried about the present. What we tend to worry about is the future. We do exactly what Jesus told us not to do, “We worry about tomorrow.” Paul said in the text above, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” The rule I try to follow is: if something creates anxiety, it’s time to pray. Prayer is the great stress reliever. When we by faith put ourselves into the hand of Christ acknowledging that He is responsible for us as long as we are in His care, it brings peace to our minds. A troubled mind is hard to live with. Living by faith does not mean we see the near or distant future, it means that we walk daily in the light that He gives us. When you travel at night by car, you don’t see your destination as soon as you pull out of the driveway, you see a hundred yards or so depending on the lights of your car and your eyesight. To reach your destination, you travel mile by mile following the light that you have and eventually the light will illuminate your final destination.
There is one thing that all believers in Christ need to keep in mind, we don’t need to make any final judgments until we have seen the final destination. I admit, things look bad now. There is more hatred for Christ in this world than I ever imagined. Church after church is struggling. We are baptizing very few people. The churches that are growing are growing off of other churches. We desperately need a spiritual awakening. We have a hundred and forty million people in America who are dependent on Government instead of God and that is not good. As a nation, our future is very uncertain but as believers our future is secure.
2. Abiding In Christ Will Banish The Conflict
Do you remember the headache commercial that use to run on TV that pictured tension as a rope stretched to the point that it was breaking a strand at a time. That is what the word tension means, to be stretched to tight, strained to the point of breaking. We often refer to a tense person as being “Up tight”. One of the things that causes anxiety, worry, and tension is to be pulled in many different directions. Paul knew the secret, he said, “This one thing I do.” I don’t have a choice, I do not think I could function any other way. I do one thing at a time. When Teddy called about the REVIVAL, my focus was on the revival. The five days I was in Mobile, I was focused on one thing. I did not worry one second about the BLOCK PARTY. As soon as we got home Thursday, I started worrying about the block party. Then for the next three days, it was all BLOCK PARTY. We did have a promotion in the church family but other than that, it was Block Party. I got home late Saturday night and I turned my attention to Sunday a.m. message. Did I have some anxiety over all three? Yes, but I did take them one at a time: it is the only way I can function at age 64.
When we filled pulled in two direction, it creates tension and conflict. Where there is tension and conflict, there is no peace; It is that simple. I will not lie, for years I had my own agenda. I don’t think that I was aware of it but my will and God’s will were not the same. The results is a lack of peace. A few years ago I sensed a work of grace in my life as I began to feel my will abating and my desire to do God’s will growing. I would not go back for any amount of money. There is no substitute for the PEACE of God, it passes all understanding. Huck Finn said, “Conscience takes up more room than all the rest of the fellow’s insides.” Huck had a point, there is not better feeling than the approval of a good conscience.
3. Abiding In Christ Will Produce The Fruit of JOY
I think every child wants to please their father. I think it is inherent; it is something that is in us, something we cannot explain but neither deny. I grew up on a 40 acre cocklebur farm in Limestone County. From day one, I loved tractors. I could not wait for daddy to let me drive the tractor and I remember the first time he left me alone in the field on the tractor [C-Allis Chamber]. I was breaking land and was in hog heaven. It was in the fall when the days are warm but the nights are cool and I was wearing a shirt but that is another story. I never made that mistake a again. I had a good daddy but there are two things I never heard: one was “I love you son” and the other was “good job son, I am proud of you.” When we become a child of God, there is something in us that longs to please our heavenly Father. Like an earthly father, the heavenly Father loves respect and obedience.
Several years ago, I learned a critical lesson in life, one that I regret not learning earlier. We had a FAITH team that got inside a house and was presenting the gospel. The presenter that night was a trainee named Nancy. She was a tiny and sweet girl. She may have been 5’4″ but she didn’t weight a 100 pounds. She had a beautiful smile and a sweet disposition. Nancy was sharing with a man who was seated on the couch and right in the middle of her presentation, his wife [whom they did not know was around] burst out of the bedroom and drove the entire team out of the house. When this team got back to the campus for the report hour, I was worried that Nancy would be discouraged but she had the spirit of Peter and John in Acts 5 where they had been beaten by order of the Sanhedrin; the bible said they left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Nancy was not the least bit discouraged. After she shared her story, the entire group erupted in praise. Nancy did not lead the man to Christ, so why the joy and celebration. It did happen, I was there and I was a part of the celebration. It was real and generated by the Holy Spirit. This put me to thinking, “Why did we have joy when we had no success?” Then the answer came from heaven like a bolt of lightening…it’s our obedience, not our success that brings joy.
Every time you met an unhappy Christian, you have met a person living in disobedience. Years ago I was preaching a revival meeting and one night a man came to me after the service weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he could not get enough composure to respond so I waited…finally he said, “You are doing what I am supposed to be doing.” I said, “You mean preaching. Has God called you to preach?” He then shared his story and I urged him to surrender but he walked away saying, “It’s too late.” Folks, it’s not too late to repent and to obey and there is no peace when the flesh is on the throne of your life. Remember the story of Jehu riding toward Jezreel and Jehoram sends out a rider to see if Jehu is coming in peace. The rider goes out to met Jehu and says, “Is your mission peace?” I love Jehu’s response, “How can there be peace with Jezebel on the throne?”